Dhafer Youssef: Digital Prophecy (2003)
The genesis of Digital Prophecy is diaphanously cinematic. With flowing dramatic ardor, “Diaphanes” exudes a strong oud aroma. It’s earthy, simple, relaxed, and suggestively enhanced with dripping and aerial electronic effects from Eivind Aarset, who also gleams on guitar. As Yoda would say of the crescendo caravanesque march of “Aya”—which first exhibit the leader’s haunting Arabic vocals—“Rich in melodic, rhythmic, chordal and harmonic subtleties, insinuated in sensual Middle Eastern over and undertones an album this is.”
Dhafer Youssef frames Islamic Sufism as a leading motif for a musical exploratory meditation of an avant-roots nature; which is to say that he navigates progressively, technologically and culturally advanced paths on ancient Arabic musical, jazz, rock and electronica beat trails. The recording isn’t, however, a three steps forward—into futuristic maelstrom—with two steps backwards—into musical archeology—dance. The Norwegian supporting cast enhances Youssef’s Arabic by befitting his Middle Eastern soundscaping aesthetics rather expertly. They, however, are 21st Century bound and therein lies some of the beauty of this particular type of musical synthesis.
The ensemble playing, as well as the soloing in “Sparkling Truth,” illustrates such claims rather well. Bugge Wesseltoft’s sensible piano playing, with the tasteful and steady backbeat of Rune Arnesen’s drumming, aligned so finely with Dieter Ilg’s single noted and cool bass grooves—as well as the always opportune and beautiful guitar and electronic work of Aarset—are both infectious and effective. The leader, on the other hand, shows mastery as an improviser in the oud, with precise and clear intonation, great dexterity and technical facility, aided by passionate feeling. Thus, their performance in the aforementioned composition is the type of music that can be easily remixed for club dance, although it’s quite a bit more than a transposition of amicable grooves with trance possibilities within a march-like linear logic.
“Seventh Heaven Suite,” featuring the enigmatically named N.P.M. on trumpet—out-Truffazing Truffaz—is an energetic gem, just as much of the meatier carvings of this recording are.
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Track Listing: 1. Diaphanes 2. Aya (1984) 3. Dawn Prayer 4. Sparkling Truth 5. Ysamy 6. Holy Breath 7. Seventh Heaven Suite 8. Wood Talk 9. Holy Lie (Empire D'Ivresse Suite) 10. Flowing Water
Personnel: Dhafer Youssef: Oud & Vocal. Eivind Aarset: Guitars & Electronics. Ronu Majumdar: Bansuri. Dieter Ilg: Acoustic Bass. Rune Arnesen: Drums, Programming. Bugge Wesseltoft: Piano & Keyboards. Jan Bang: Beat programming. N.P.M.: Trumpet.